What we say

Public relations is our civic responsibility

Oct 17, 2018

It’s a scary time in PR. And a powerful one.

I spent the past week with my public relations colleagues from around the nation at the Public Relations Society of America’s International Conference, aka PRSA ICON.

Amidst the digital media and VR sessions ran a much deeper-than-usual undercurrent.

Truth. Facts. Ethics. Duty. Responsibility. Fear. Frustration. Exhaustion. Purpose. Power.

Keynotes talked of finding purpose and making an impact – and we’re not talking simple campaigns here. We discussed breaking racial stereotypes through intentional messaging and authentic representation. Surviving the current political climate’s impact on the press. The role of digital media in giving oppressed communities of color voice and bringing together survivors.

We live in a world of heavy shit. We always have, but our communications tools bring them closer to the surface for many who were previously sheltered or naïve. The 24/7 news cycle and permeation of social media in our lives means living in a world that is itself a giant trigger warning. But it also gives us new ways to connect, to mobilize, to educate and to fight.

The weight of the public relations industry and its role in social change felt ever-present at PRSA ICON this year, despite the “Austin weird” backdrop and the cocktails and coffee.

During his keynote, former U.S. Secretary of Labor Robert Reich passionately asserted that as PR people, it is our civic responsibility to communicate, and to do it well using our most precious commodity: trust.

“If we don’t trust facts, trust information, trust other people do be civil, what do we have?” Reich said. “We start losing the social fabric that ties us together.”

His words stuck with me more than anything else from this past week.

PR is our civic responsibility.

We have an obligation and duty as those with the skills to bring people together and shepherd change to do so.

Truth. Facts. Ethics. Duty. Responsibility. Fear. Frustration. Exhaustion. Purpose. Power.


What will we do with it?